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Michigan

UM captain Schilling set to be leader

ANN ARBOR - Those traveling Ann Arbor's State Street in the

early morning of July 30 may have spotted a playful hoax being enacted by University of Michigan's senior football class.

What was supposed to be an optional 7 a.m. workout at Schembechler Hall turned into a leisurely team stroll along the city's main street, ending at the campus Diag.

It's unlikely, that in a cluster of so many maize and blue clad players, that anyone noticed Stephen Schilling that morning. At about 305 pounds, no one could reasonably expect Schilling to be out in front of the cluster. And he wasn't, but that was partially by design.

"I was kind of policing from the back," Schilling said. "Some guys ran ahead, some guys tried to walk."

Thus, it comes as little surprise that 10 days later - on Monday - Schilling was one of two seniors elected team captain.

When UM opens its season Sept. 4 against Connecticut, Schilling is expected to make his 37th career start in 38 contests. He's exactly what UM had hoped for when, in 2006, he arrived to campus from Bellevue, Wash., as the No. 2 overall guard in the country. A starter at right tackle his freshman and sophomore seasons, Schilling moved to left guard last year and picked up All Big Ten honorable mention honors by the league's coaches and participating media members.

On Monday, hours after UM's first practice of the year, Schilling and linebacker Mark Moundros were named the first permanent captains in the three years since Rich Rodriguez has been coach. Not surprisingly, Rodriguez brought both Schilling and Moundros, as well as cornerback Troy Woolfolk, to Chicago last week for the annual Big Ten meetings, an honor typically reserved for a team's most accomplished and most respected players.

"This team chose two worthy seniors to represent this program as captains," Rodriguez said in a statement. "Mark and Stephen are great representatives of the University of Michigan, both as a student and football players. They will work with our other seniors to lead this team throughout the season."

Schilling will work with the other linemen to rearrange a running game that has a different feel without last year's seniors Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown. Sophomore back Vincent Smith is showing no lingering effects of an offseason knee surgery, Rodriguez said, and, despite his small frame - 5-foot-6, 180 pounds - Smith may end up being the feature carrier in UM's spread offense. Michael Shaw, who has yet to be ruled eligible because of academics, and Michael Cox, who by all accounts had a productive spring, are hardly afterthoughts though. Further down the line are freshmen Fitzgerald Toussaint, who redshirted last year partially because of injuries, and Stephen Hopkins, who because of his size - 6 foot, 227 pounds - is eliciting comparisons to the bruiser Minor.

On both sides of Schilling will be new players. Sort of, anyway. Freshman Taylor Lewan is expected to start at left tackle, and David Molk, who started just four games last year because of a knee injury, is back at center. Molk was considered by Rodriguez to be one of UM's best overall players last year.

"Good to have him back, good to start playing with him again," Schilling said.

SHORT YARDS: Rodriguez said the team is at 105 players, the maximum allowed by the NCAA. … Blissfield graduate Dylan Esterline, a freshman tight end, is in camp as a preferred walk-on. … Rodriguez intends to award "a couple" of scholarships to walk-on players at the end of camp, but it is his nature to not reveal the names of the recipients. … UM will not practice this weekend while Rodriguez is in Seattle meeting with the NCAA.

- Ryan Autullo

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